The Tennessee Valley Authority
Cooling water for the new gas plant; Coal ash pollution from the shuttered coal plant.

In 2014 TVA publicly announces plans to cool its new natural gas fired power plant with water from the nearby Maxson Wastewater Treatment Plant. Public comments are generally in favor of the proposed innovative solution.

By 2016, without public notice, TVA changes its cooling water plans to pump water directly the Memphis Sand Aquifer. When this change is discovered and reported in the Memphis media, the public responds with outrage. The Sierra Club hosts a public meeting that includes local water professionals to explain the issue. TVA does not attend the meeting and cites “cost issues” as the reason for the change in cooling water plans.

In spite of objections from local water scientists, environmentalists and the general public, TVA charges ahead with its plans to pump from the Aquifer. Other sources of water are available—including buying the water from Memphis Light Gas & Water.

In mid 2017, TVA discovers and informs the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation that the groundwater around the Allen Coal Fired plant is contaminated with high levels of arsenic, lead and other heavy metals. Most likely the result of unlined coal ash storage, this contaminated area is across the street from the new wells TVA has drilled into the deep aquifer.

Protect Our Aquifer, the Sierra Club and other opponents of the plan expect TVA to abandon their plans to pump cooling water from the Memphis Sand Aquifer because of the obvious risk of contamination.

Instead, TVA presses ahead and pays water scientists and consultants to conduct selective tests designed to show that drawing cooling water from the Memphis Sand Aquifer in such close proximity to their coal ash contamination is without risk to our drinking water aquifer.

Subsequent testing of the new TVA deep wells, in conjunction with TDEC ordered shallow wells to monitor the movement of polluted water, indicates a connection between the shallow (polluted) aquifer and the deeper drinking water aquifer.

TDEC orders TVA to find another source of cooling water until further study and clean up solves the problem of pollution and potential contamination of the deep Aquifer. In order to open their new billion-dollar natural gas power plant, TVA agrees to purchase water from MLG&W.

Protect Our Aquifer believes any risk to our aquifer is unacceptable. POA is currently working with qualified water professionals to review TVA’s Remedial Investigation Work Plan. POA supports an effective cleanup of the coal ash ponds.

Protect Our Aquifer is a non-profit citizen group formed to support the conservation and protection of the Memphis Sand Aquifer for the benefit of present and future generations.

Our objectives

  1. Raise public awareness of the Memphis Sand Aquifer and its value to the community.
  2. To provide public oversight of TVA’s Remedial Investigation Work Plan to prove their new wells are safe and will not contaminate the Memphis Sand Aquifer.
  3. Strengthen the Shelby County Groundwater Control Ordinance with improved well permitting rules and overall management of the aquifer within Shelby County, including public notice, participation, and mandatory Board review of all industrial well permits.


Board Members

Ward Archer

Jason Farmer

Mark Fleischer

Robert Gurley

Jim Kovarik

Jimmy Lewis

Greg Maxted

Hite McLean

Jenna Stonecipher

Peggy Turley